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Former Congressional Candidate Sentenced to Prison for Lying During Investigation Into Campaign Letters

U.S. Attorney’s Office February 14, 2011
  • Central District of California (213) 894-2434

SANTA ANA, CA—Tan Nguyen, who ran for the United States House of Representatives in 2006, was sentenced this morning to one year and one day in federal prison for his conviction last year on a federal obstruction of justice charge stemming from lies he told to California investigators about his involvement in a letter sent to Latino voters during the campaign.

Nguyen, a 35-year-old Oceanside resident, was sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter, who presided over two trials last year. In addition to the prison term, Judge Carter ordered Nguyen to serve six months at a residential reentry center, also known as a halfway house.

Prior to imposing a prison term, Judge Carter said, “The standard of ethics that the public expects of their officials is high.”

A federal jury in December found Nguyen guilty of obstruction of justice for lying to the California Department of Justice, which was investigating numerous complaints from Latino voters in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County. The complaints came after approximately 14,000 voters in the district received a letter in Spanish that made certain claims about who was eligible to vote and what would happen to immigrant voters if they cast ballots. The mailer went out on letterhead that was similar to that of an anti-illegal immigration group, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which had nothing to do with the letter.

During an interview with CalDOJ investigators in October 2006, Nguyen falsely stated that campaign volunteers created the letter without his knowledge.

“Mr. Nguyen’s conduct undermined the public’s expectation of honesty from public officials and those who desire to serve,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr.

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, stated: “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the voting rights of all individuals. We simply will not tolerate those who attempt to interfere with efforts to enforce civil rights laws in our nation.”

The jury that convicted Nguyen on the obstruction of justice charge deadlocked 9-3 on a second obstruction of justice charge that alleged Nguyen attempted to blame a campaign worker for the letter. Nguyen was found guilty following his second trial; a jury in the first trial in August 2010, deadlocked on both counts. At the conclusion of today’s sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors moved to dismissed the unresolved obstruction of justice charge.

Judge Carter ordered Nguyen to surrender to begin serving his sentence by March 28.

The investigation into Nguyen was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Gregory W. Staples (714) 338-3535